Friday, March 30, 2012

The Darkness 2 PS3 review

Ah The Darkness a game I played (and still do) repeatedly despite the lack of trophies or alternative endings just to enjoy the story; now it has a sequel and the first question is "Does it match up to the original?" not really. My first part will review this as a game in its own right; the second as a sequel.

To recap Jackie Estacado is an orphan raised within the structure of an Italian Mob family who in the first games is a hitman sent out on a job that goes wrong. The situation awakens a malevolent entity within him called the Darkness that gives him special powers. People die and Jackie uses this power to get his revenge and become head of the family before realising that the Darkness is starting to control him rather than the other way around. He vows to suppress it and manages to do so for two years. That's where the sequel begins.

The game itself is a set of self-contained missions laid out in linear fashion and graphically realised in a Borderlands cartoon/cel-shaded style. For the most part this is a shooter with a minor RPG upgrade system in place. Controls are designed to allow quick and easier methods of dealing damage. There's independent control of the two guns that can be duel-wielded and the same for the two Darkness 'snake' powers the one that grabs and the one that slashes.

If you've played these types of games before then on the default difficulty level it'll take 5-7 hours to complete it really is that short. Tougher difficulty levels will stretch that time, but mainly due to death rather than conservative actions on the players part.

Repetition is a minor problem for the first few sections there are only four different types of enemy and the later levels only add about four heavies to the mix.

Mixing things up is the multi-player which nicely enough can also be played as a single player experience so no worry about the computer/console controlling team-mates. These side-missions use different characters with different abilities and form a secondary campaign that fits neatly into the story of the first.

That said there isn't exactly much of a story here and you're pretty much led by the nose. There are some neat touches with the asylum sections that I'll go into more detail with in a moment, but for the most part it's possible not to have the first clue about what's going on and why beyond kill these people who are trying to kill me. I'm not saying there isn't a story and if you collect and read about all the relics and do all the 'multi-player' missions there's depth to be found, but it needs to be dug for.

For the main story it's a bit short and has little replay; add in the extras and it's about right. Don't go out of your way to pick it up.

As a sequel it's more disappointing; the cartoon graphics jars with the more realistic portrayal in the first game and there are silly little differences that disappoint such as not being able to see your own feet. Sounds stupid , but in the first game you could look down and see your feet and legs moving and your arms pumping as you ran or walked - in this version you're a floating sphere... a short floating sphere. Seriously in the mansion stand in a doorway and look at yourself in a mirror. Say you're 6ft tall then door handles are 5'6" of the ground and the doors are 12ft tall - and all the environments are the same Land of the Giants.

There are no more Darkling tactics and restrictions; you just get the one which you don't control. No more trudging through tube stations to get to the missions and repetitious interludes, but at a cost of making the game seem shorter and more linear. Powers are tweaked and less confusing though that makes the character seem less powerful.

Gone are the death/war scenes to be replaced with an asylum. This perhaps the best thing they did even if they did nick it from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There's definitely a case of 'which is real'; the asylum sequences are certainly much more plausible than the 'game'. Which is real? Still a little up in the air there.

Story-wise it tidies up and fills in some bits and lays the groundwork for a third outing, but to me it just didn't feel as good as the first - no doubt in some respects it's better, and certainly sleeker; but it just lacked heart and a touch of dark humour.

I think fans of the first game are likely to be a little disappointed; at times it does seem dumbed down to appeal to the Call of Duty groups. Again don't go out of your way to pick it up.